Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I defy you to not enjoy this

I swear, I've watched the opening musical number from the Emmy Awards like, fifteen times, and it makes me smile like a moron each time. You'd have to be: 1)a heartless puppy snuffer; 2)a hater of pop culture; 3)utterly un-American; and 4)not own a TV to not enjoy the stuffing out of this.

Seriously, what's not to love? My favorite Springsteen song, the Glee kids, John Hamm, Jorge Garcia, Joel McHale, Tina Fey, Jane Lynch, Tim Gunn, Betty White...

What a kick!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Can I Get a Witness?

Leaving work today, I witnessed a nasty car accident from about five feet away. A woman in a Camry swerved across two lanes of traffic directly into the path of a Tahoe which was motoring along in the far left lane of M Street. There was no way the Tahoe driver could possibly have missed the blue bullet in his path.

The impact was intense and in just a split second, the sidewalk in front of me was showered in glass fragments.

I felt my whole body go cold, my stomach started to flip-flop, and, dammit, I immediately had a flashback to last June's collision. And then - what the hell? - to a collision from many, many years ago, when I was hit in my mom's station wagon by a speeding red light runner back in my home town (directly in front of our insurance agent's office.)

When I regained my composure enough to speak (with that shaky shock voice you have when you've just seen something that could have ended a life or two or three) I approached the driver of the Tahoe and offered to be a witness to the accident. Very few people have stopped to be witnesses for me, so I know how important it is to have an independent voice to describe the situation.

I must have been speaking much louder than I thought. The driver of the Camry - amazingly uninjured but trapped by the crushed door of her car - kept yelling over to me, "Oh no, no - I'll take responsibility for this. You don't have to be a witness. You don't have to wait for the police. Really, you don't have to be a witness!"

Hello, lady - I call bullshit on that one.

I found one of my non-day job business cards (the ones that say "freelance writer & blogger") and handed it to the stunned Tahoe driver.

"Look, I've been in several accidents in recent years. If your insurance company or the police need to talk to me, you give them my information, okay?"

Again, the Camry driver yelled her mantra. "You don't need to be a witness! It's okay!"

As I pressed my card into Tahoe guy's hands I said, "As the Russians say, 'Доверяй, но проверяй' - trust, but verify. She may say this now, but stories tend to change overnight. Have them call me."

I've just gotten over that shaky wave of nausea. Took a couple of hours. But I think I'm going to bed early tonight. And I hope this guy's insurance company calls me.

I'm a very good witness.

Folks, if you ever have the misfortune of witnessing an accident, please don't walk away or drive away or just ignore what you saw. You may be the difference between a speedy resolution and months or years of anguish and frustration for some poor sod.

And you'll have some damn good karma on your side.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Yeah, I Live in "Classy Town USA"

I posted this suburban nightmare to my Facebook account a couple of weeks ago, and I realized I never told the tale here. Forgive the presentation of this story - I'm pulling this from my original Facebook post and then my follow-up comments in response to appalled friends.

To be muttered a la Jack Bauer:
the following took place at a strip mall right outside Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, more or less between 6 and 7 p.m., August 9th...

Original Facebook post:
"Gentlemen: no matter how sweaty you get, no matter how pretty you and your clown car of peeps want to make yourselves before going into a local bar & grill... please do not all strip to your skivvies outside your minivan and, uh, cleanse your nether regions with baby wipes in front of all the alfresco diners at Ledo Pizza and the Corner Bakery. I may never shake hands with a 20-something male ever again.

In response to comments of amazed horror:
"It was disgusting. A whole minivan of young dudes - clearly they had been running/biking/working out in some way, but to shuck your clothes in a really full parking lot in front of tons of cafe patrons? Just tacky. And - god help me for writing this - one of them dug into his undies twice with the baby wipes to clean his junk and then - oh god, oh god - he lifted the soiled baby wipe to his face and sniffed it. I sat in my car and dry heaved.

When these guys had all changed clothes, they were in dark jeans or Dockers, with button-down shirts, and all had gov't agency IDs clipped to their belts. These weren't exactly homeless guys. Just... disgusting. People were walking past just staring in shock and amazement. And a little horror.

Gaaaah, now I need more Purell just for writing this!

And later...
I actually called one of my sisters because I couldn't believe it, and - poor thing - she got an earful when I yelled, "OMIGOD, STOP WIPING YOUR JUNK!" That's the point when my sister said, "Oh Jesus, I'm hanging up now." Stay classy, suburban DC!"

Yes, Bethesda. Stay super classy!

And to all, a good night.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


So, in a couple of months I turn 45. Halfway to 90. Halfway to dead, I sometimes joke. Truth is, no one knows how long we get on this planet. Gotta make every moment count as much as you can. Maybe I'll wax on about that later, but not now.

Usually, when folks turn 40, it's a big deal. (At least for those of us who dig birthdays.) My 40th was not exactly a big deal. But some things have happened in the intervening years between 40 and now that make me want to celebrate this number.

I lost a brother.

I lost a sister.

I lost part of my vision, and my parts of my spine were crushed. (Along with a bit of my spirit.)

I found out that I was a little more fragile that I ever figured I would have to admit. And I have a greater respect for the impermanence of life - and the need to squeeze every drop of joy you can from it, circumstances be damned.

And so, I want to mark this date somehow. In the end, it may just be me and a big bottle of cheap Aussie wine (seriously, the Australian wine industry owes me some royalties at this point), but I feel like I should make it count.

If I had any cash like a real adult, I'd invite some folks to be my guests and join me for dinner or BBQ in a park (it'll be a wee bit cold for that, likely, come November) or sit around a fire, telling stories and drinking cider. (Man, I miss the embassy's dachas outside of Moscow sometimes!!)

But, as always, the cupboard is pretty damn bare. Being the hostess with the mostest isn't a possibility, much to my shame.

So, creative thinkers, how would you celebrate a milestone birthday on a shoestring budget? I'm aiming to not just have a tuna sandwich in front of the TV watching the previous night's episode of "Mad Men." (Although, I'll take a hearty slice of John Hamm any old day, thank you very much, even if he's playing an ass like Don Draper.)

Should I rent myself a pile of movies and just hunker down for a day of slugliness? Should I squirrel away enough $$ for a tank of gas to go sit out on the beach for a cold autumn day at the shore?

What would you do? Creative - and reaaaaally inexpensive - ideas welcome.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hint to DC City Workers

If you're driving a city-owned car (or, as was the case this morning, city-owned tractor!) and you have a sticker on the back window that reads "How's my driving? Call 311 to report problems" DON'T DRIVE THROUGH EVERY RED LIGHT ON CONNECTICUT BETWEEN THE HILTON AND DUPONT CIRCLE.

Amazed people like me will actually call 311 and complain. (And, for the record, I spoke to a lovely, uber professional person at DC's 311 line who took my complaint, confirmed that this was a city worker, and gave me a complaint confirmation number.)

The same goes for federal workers driving cars with USG plates. You're driving on our dime. And you have federal license plates. You're easy to report when you're swerving between lanes in morning rush hour like a Friday night drunk.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Coffee Crank

Snagged a parking space this evening directly in front of the Caribou Coffee @ 17th & Penn NW - kitty corner from the White House. Tourist/Washington Helmet-Headed Bird Woman*/Wonk Central. Got the cheapest iced coffee the 'Bou offers while I waited briefly for the Sasquatch to wrap up his workday down the street. WTOP had just announced the wretched temperature before I exited the Crapmobile - still 90F at 6 p.m. with a heat index of 100 hellish degrees.

I was nursing a bad headache and wasn't up to hipster muzak and blasting A/C inside, so I snagged a shaded table right on the street. A few other customers dotted the remaining outdoor tables in the muggy air. I saw a family studying a fold-up tourist map of the city just past the tables. Usually, I offer to help folks, but my brain was getting close to shutting down for the day. Not American, I thought. European?

Then I heard their voices as they spoke loudly over rush hour traffic: Londoners. East End. (I have - or at least had - a good ear for UK accents. Some of my friends at the LSE used to make a game out of testing my ability to place people in cities and regions by voice.) Mum and Dad, teenage son, married daughter and son-in-law. Daughter was oddly dressed in two heavy layers of autumn knitwear; I could only imagine she was slow-cooking in her clothes like a human stew. She was clearly irritated as her husband tried to map their way to Georgetown.

As she waited, arms crossed, she turned toward the Caribou and frowned at the alfresco drinkers. "FUCKIN' 'ELL!" That got everyone's attention. "What kind of crazy bastards drink coffee in this heat?!? Fuckin' 'ell!" Even as the whole family squished into a taxi, she continued to rant in disproportionate response to our summer beverage choices. "My god, that would make me sick! Crazy bastards!"

As they drove away, I exchanged raised eyebrows with the woman at the next table. "Jeez! She needs to relax," the other woman laughed.

I looked at my sweaty cup of lovely iced coffee and just smiled.

Hello, I'm a crazy bastard. And this iced coffee? Very refreshing.

*You know the "Washington Helmet Headed Bird Woman," right? So thin as to have sold her soul to Satan (or Benson & Hedges), courting osteoporosis, clad in an old school Chanel-ish suit, sensible heels, with AquaNetted hair in a helmet halo that a 1960s Betty Crocker would have been proud to sport. Likely has an upper management role at a federal agency or some nonprofit. Mostly humorless. C'mon, DC - we *all* know these women.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The cicadas know...

...that the temperature is going to start to skyrocket again tomorrow. They're like a living, chattering weather station, whirring with increasing intensity as the mercury climbs. Right now, they're engaged in a sunset call and response battle with the field crickets, who rise to supremacy when the moonlight glows and the cicadas diminish.

Sometimes, it's hard to believe how close I live to a major commuter road when all I can hear is this symphony of clicks, the levels rising and falling like a wave off the beach. When the cicadas settle in silence for the night, the crickets will be quiet enough that I"ll be able to hear the freight trains clacking down the road and the strange, rounded sound of brakes being applied on the Metro trains as they pull into Grosvenor Station.

And in the quiet, I'll hear the last planes of the night, on approach to National and Dulles. Bringing loved ones home to waiting family and freshly made beds. Bringing businessmen in to airport hotels to prepare for Monday meetings and far too many paper cups of bad, strong coffee. And soon, bringing my friend back.

So many words, so many ideas, unspoken, unheard, for so long.

Just the crickets and cicadas to hear me. And they rarely find my thoughts enlightening or entertaining.

After all, it's all just chirps and whirs and chattering of another organic sort. Understandable, translatable by only that few we choose ourselves.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Why, sure you can pay me to buy that swanky printer paper

I love stuff like this.

I ran out of my crappy cheap printer paper for home use. Went to Staples today - they had a deal where you could buy *any* ream of paper -max of two reams for this deal, any brand/type - and you get the cost back 100% in Staples Rewards. Nice. Really nice. I don't mind waiting a month to get paid back.

But then I noticed that the swanky Hammermill Ultra Premium inkjet paper also had an online rebate of $3 a ream. So, I bought two reams, and in the end, Staples will be paying me $6 for having bought the nice paper.

It pays to be a savvy customer. Also pays to just walk into a deal like that by accident. Which is pretty much what happened here...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Tell me all the things you would change

Lots on my mind right now. Lots and lots.

The moment I woke up today, I had Crowded House music in my head. The words, the melodies - all comforting to me. And the songs kept me focused today, despite feeling unsettled, unsure. A line from "Distant Sun" - the song in the video below - has been my mantra all day: I am not afraid of the dark.

I am not afraid of the dark.

Don't ever be afraid of the dark, friends. Never, ever.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Well, this doesn't look good

Just heard a weatherdude say this storm looks pretty much like the one that kicked our collective butt two weekends back. Heads up, PEPCO: thanks to my growing lack of trust in you, I still haven't bought new groceries - I don't have jack squat in my kitchen for you to ruin, bwah hah hah hah!

Frak - I need more batteries...

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I Suck at Poetry: the Lydia Deetz Edition

(Ten points to Gryffindor if you got the Beetlejuice reference.) And yeah, I still suck at poetry.


The bookmark girl in isolation
Awaits his hand upon the shelf
The fleeting seconds when his fingers
Brush her worn out leather soul

A faithful dog who stays at doors
And windows, like a matchgirl watches
Banquets of his life, so glad
For scraps that slip from plates

She swallows her own phosphorus
But no one sees the glow inside
Like fireflies she feels when
He passes her in flight

Breathless for the moments granted
In his presence and his eyes
Before the bookmark is replaced
And she is shelved again

To hope

Facebook recommends...

From my Facebook page just now:

I'll give a nickel to the person who comes up with the best fake status update for either one of these guys. Go!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Radio Hack

Know what Radio Shack wanted for two replacement batteries for my two cordless phones at home? $42. Yeah! For real! Forty-two dollars. I can pretty much buy a whole new set of cordless phones for that at Sam's Club.

Advice: if you live on the 355 corridor in MoCo, go to Batteries Plus, just south of Rockville Town Center (and the grave of F. Scott Fitzgerald.) The really nice guys there identified the battery I needed, and, when they discovered they only had one in stock, they upgraded me to the more expensive long-life version, but at the cheaper battery's price. I was in and out for $20 and felt like they went out of their way to keep me a happy customer. Neat!

I know, it's pretty mundane, but some days are like that. I'm grateful for the occasional boring day. Puts the rest of My Weird Life in perspective. I went to the post office, bought batteries, and now it's time to suit up to haul away the beef and pork bodies in my kitchen morgue. Pray for me.

BTW, less mundane: my encounter the other day with the insane young Middle Eastern dude driving a Caddy like he was high and then engaging in some of the most racist behavior I've ever seen. More on this later. Now, the scouring of the kitchen...